A theme park was in our plans, and though it was going to be a vacation, I didn’t leave unprepared to save a little money along the way. Before we left for the theme park, we did some research. An internet search engine inquiry for ticket coupon codes saved $10 on each ticket. We found a hotel that met our accommodation preferences, and included a few amenities which would make for a pleasant stay for all of us.
I scoured trip advisory sites for reviews from other park travelers. We learned empty water bottles, taken into the park could be filled throughout the day from the cold water in drinking fountains. We did as the consensus told us, and made lunch out of generously scooped ice cream cones. (I had to take a photo of them, it was unbelievable!) There was a collectible sports bottle available for purchase, which you could refill for free on the day of purchase. We did this the second day, which we learned we should have done on the first day, as refills of your bottle brought back to the park the next day could be filled for only .99 cents.
Short on time, I found pre-made “Vacation Packing Lists” online. Each author thought of something unique we had to have for our trip. Compiling these, I created a list fit for our family, for future reference as well. I found many of the items in our home stockpiles and purchased what I could using coupons
Packing for what was sure to feel like a cross-country drive, followed the wisdom I’d learned as a kid. My mom taught me that snacks for the drive (and a day at the park) were a must. After nine years of being a married mom, I’ve learned why she did so. Almonds, un-meltable snack bars, peanut butter, and gum kept everyone’s temperament at peak joviality. Two small coolers kept us refreshed in the car with juice boxes, favorite sodas, carrots, celery, and cheese sticks. We snacked on the way into the park and when the day was over, we were greeted by a cold drink when we reached the car.
Loading my phone with “apps” prepared me for the drive and for our destination. One night, as we dined in a national restaurant, our meal took 20-minutes to arrive. To neutralize the hunger-angst, I found my husband a “kids eat free” coupon on my phone. He one-upped me at the register by mentioning he’s retired military. The manager greeted us then, to my husband for his service and to add an additional 10-percent savings to our bill. (If you’re military, AAA, a teacher, senior citizen, etc. – it never hurts to ask, and sometimes, it pays!)
In our park bag, we included: mix-in-water lemonade packets, paper towels, a few of our snacks, empty plastic bags (for wet suits), an extra pair of gender-neutral sunglasses, pain reliever, sunscreen, a “one size fits most pair of socks”, and lip balm. What I found most useful was a small cloth handbag I wore under my arm to hold the drink bottles and a few necessities. Even after we left the bulky bag in the locker, I could comfortably carry a few things with me.
Basically, my packing philosophy is to pack from home anything light and unobtrusive. This helps to avoid purchasing items at a premium during the vacation. Same goes for our “day bags”, which are lighter than you might picture, and priceless when the need arises. I do enjoy the vacation, every moment to the fullest, and do indulge when I can. I don’t however, leave home without my frugal eyes and ears!
Here are a few more quick tips:
I purchased a few disposable cameras on clearance, and gave them to the kids for their photography. My daughter wants to take photos of the plants, and I suggest to her to include family members in the scenic shots, for sentimental reasons. Postcards are great to capture the sights that our skill might not, but I also grab a few copies of the park/attraction brochures. These usually include pictures, and are free. They’re very useful to add to scrapbook pages, to remember your favorite vacation moments.
The most useful tools I pack that hotel rooms don’t furnish: scissors, tweezers, a paring knife, a night light, a flashlight, body wash (for the teen and for myself), bandaids, first aid gel, batteries and cords for electronic devices,“Good” paper towels, zippered plastic bags, safety pins, paper plates, and a large garbage bag for our homebound laundry. For the night we ate in our room, enjoying food from the grocery store, we used coupons and shopped the sales.
Our kids are kept entertained with “new” reads I’ve collected at garage sales, including puzzle books, “kids travel books”, and art supplies. I gave each child a new composition type notebook as we left home, to record their drawings and memories. I loaded their mp3 players with audio books and music they’ll enjoy. I have stored in the car a second bag, new treasures for the ride home.
As I do all this packing and preparing, I include my kids in the tasks as appropriate. It’s how I pass the wisdom to their future and children. My husband, he can be a challenge, because he was a one-bag, “buy it at the convenience store” sailor before he became a Dad. I utilize a little bit of the “Five Love Languages” and show him the time, money and energy saved when I weigh down the car a little more than he’s ready for.
Enjoy your adventures – and share with us what makes your vacations run more smoothly!